Postcard from Highway One #50: An Invitation

13 February 2006

Last month, I promised something special for my fiftieth postcard. So here you have it... A hundred for fifty.

You may have noticed that the photos of myself that Iíve posted in my journal have only ever been head shots; That Iíve never posted a full body shot here. While Iíve certainly indicated that I continually struggle with my weight, Iíve deliberately never owned to just how severe the problem has been. The medical category is ďsuper morbidly obeseĒ and in January 2005, I weighed in at 270 kilograms or 594 pounds.

I've withheld this rather significant personal datum because, however true or untrue my perception may be, Iíve always felt that people react differently to someone of that size. Iíve enjoyed the opportunity offered by the Internet to engage with others free of the judgement thatís inevitable in face-to-face interactions.

So why have I now made the decision to own fully to who I am? Because Iíve finally done something about it and I want to celebrate my achievements with my friends.

At 270 kilograms, it was life or death stuff. I chose life.

In December 2004, after a couple of yearsí consideration, I finally made the decision to seek help and contacted a bariatric surgeon. I first saw Dr Leon Cohen at Mercy Bariatrics in early January thanks to a cancellation.

There was a problem, however. My weight exceeded the upper limit on his scale. When the hospitalís laundry scale also proved inadequate, I trekked out to Qantas Air Freight at the international airport and weighed on their freight scale. Humiliating, but necessary.

There was a further setback from that consult. Leonís advice was that I would need to get my weight down to 200 kilograms (441 pounds) before surgery. Pre-surgery, Iíd need to lose 70 kilograms (154 pounds), or roughly an average person! This task was reduced a little after Leoníd had time to consider my risk factors a little more closely. As a non-smoker/non-drinker and with no health issues other than those caused by my obesity (including hypertension), he determined that 220 kilograms (485 pounds) would be a safe operating weight.

So I set about my 50 kilogram (110 pound) task and by my return visit four weeks later, Iíd dropped 14 kilograms (31 pounds). While that makes it sound completely effortless, my life experience is testament to the fact that for me at least, itís not. Iíve lost a lot of weight in the past. In 1999/2000 I dropped 60 kilograms (132 pounds) in the course of a year under the Weight Watchers program, but since then that weight had returned almost two-fold. My focus has always slipped after a time. Leonís challenge seemed all the more achievable because post-surgery, for the first time backsliding wouldnít be inevitable.

Leon has also set up a gym attached to his bariatric surgery practice and I found the twice, and often thrice, weekly sessions to be a great help in reaching my goals. This was attributable not just to the rigorous workouts that Tahryn and Amelia put me through, but also because the regular interaction with these two stellar exercise physiologists kept me honest. Itís amazing how having to regularly own to how youíve been doing will do that!

So on 16 August, having lost 49 kilograms (108 pounds) I was admitted to Mercy Hospital where Leon performed a tube gastrectomy. Iíd initially wanted a full gastric bypass, but this surgical procedure was considered too major at my weight.

The size of my stomach was dramatically reduced down to a 200mL pouch; The procedure was performed completely laparascopically leaving only a handful of small keyhole scars, the longest of which is just two centimetres (an inch) long. There were no changes made to my intestinal tract but, unlike some other procedures, itís irreversible. After four days in hospital, I was discharged and within about two weeks, returned to work.

So now to the celebration.

Late last year, when my total weight loss went into the eighties, I decided that I wanted to celebrate the rapidly approaching milestone, one hundred kilos lost (220 pounds). So on Sunday 26 February, Iím having a sausage sizzle to celebrate my success. Shane will be over from Melbourne and Mum will be down from Bruce Rock for Zoeís birthday the night before, so the date seems perfect.

Just a fortnight ago though, it seemed unlikely that Iíd make the hundred by that date. But thanks to Transperth (Perthís public transport operator) and the free public transport theyíre offering me at the moment as part of the control group "guinea-pigging" their new ticketing system, Iím back on track, taking public transport everywhere with a lot more incidental walking, leaving the car at home.

On Thursday, two weeks out, I stood at 173.7 kilograms (383 pounds). Since I started this whole process last January, that's a total loss of 96.3 kilograms (212 pounds). With just 3.7 kilograms to go, my little soireť couldnít have been timed better.

So I'm inviting my family, friends and colleagues to join me in celebrating as I tick over the century milestone:

   Event:  Robbie's Reduction Romp!
           A sausage sizzle in the park:
           Food and soft drinks provided
   Date:   Sunday, 26 February 2006
   Time:   11:00am
   Venue:  Near Perth CBD, will be advised by return email upon your RSVP by
           Tuesday 21 February.  (Non-posting of venue is to ensure I get a
           clear idea of numbers, since this is a somewhat open-ended
           invitation and I need to sort out catering!)
In closing, Iíd like to thank everyone whoís supported me through this process, my family and close friends; But more specifically:

In researching the various weight loss surgeries (WLS) available before my first visit to Leon, a common theme among post-operative patients seemed to be that they felt that food was no longer an issue for them. I can honestly say that statement is now true for myself.

For most of my life, food has been a joy and a comfort, but also a steadfast opponent in a constant fight, a struggle. Since surgery however, apart from the odd minor skirmish, the war is over. It's amazing how a little snip can so comprehensively free you of your demons.

So now, the pictures. The images at left were taken by Leon at my first consultation in January 2005. Those on the right were taken today (Thanks Carl!).

Cheers, Rob ;)


© Rob Morgan 2006